Preparations for the new F1 season moved up a gear this week with pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.
With little more than a week until the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on 5 March and the AMR23 being a significant evolution of its predecessor, the three-day test is a chance for us to learn about our new challenger and put it through its paces. Here's everything you need to know…
"It was a good day for us with lots of laps and we have learned a lot about the new car. But it is only testing and we do not know what everyone else is doing so there are still many questions to answer." Fernando, who completed 80 laps in the final session of testing and recorded his fastest lap of the entire test in the afternoon, remains cautious about making any predictions as to where the team lies in the pecking order.
"The car feels like a step forward from last year, but we need to remember that all teams will have developed over the winter and so we will continue working hard to maintain this momentum. We are feeling positive, although we will not have a true indication of our relative pace until qualifying next Saturday." Having driven all three AMF1 cars in the space of a few months, Felipe expresses his thoughts on the state of play following testing.
"Day three is done and dusted. We managed to complete our run plan and got a number of laps on the board with both drivers. Felipe did another strong job for us in the morning and Fernando continued in the afternoon. The car ran reliably and again we managed to gather a lot of data. We are still getting to understand the car and learning about various operational and procedural matters, but we have made good progress." Performance Director Tom McCullough explains how the the team once again compiled plenty of data, and where there might still be more to learn ahead of next week's race.
"We have missed having Lance here this week, but I have to say Felipe adapted very well and did a good job. Overall, the car felt competitive across the three days, but we need to compare to the others next week." Having shared the AMR23 with Felipe this week, Fernando was impressed by the performance of the reigning FIA Formula 2 Champion.
"I have really enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the AMR23 and I think we have made good progress across the three days of running. It was great to get back in the car this morning and I am pleased with the set-up changes that have been made since my first day in the car; the team have done a really good job implementing the feedback Fernando and I have given." Felipe analyses the progress made between days one and three, having stepped into the cockpit again in the final morning session when he completed more than a race distance and finished third on the timesheets before the lunch break.
"It has been a valuable experience to compare my own observations with those of a two-time World Champion. In general, our comments are similar and I think we have worked well together to help the team maximise our three days of pre-season testing." The invaluable opportunity to work so closely with Fernando and learn from the double World Champion is something Felipe has relished this week.
"There is a lot of potential left for us to unlock and I think we are in a decent place heading into next week. Our goal is to make a step forward from last year and we will take things step by step." With the only pre-season test of 2023 now over, Fernando expresses his aims for next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.
"Now our attention moves to the first race and applying everything we have learned this week to optimise things further. Huge credit to the team this week and in the lead up to testing. It has been a massive effort by everyone trackside and at the factory to get us to this point. We are looking forward to getting the new season underway." 387 laps later... Tom reflects on the determination, effort and energy from everyone in the team to get us to this point as our focus now turns to season-opening Grand Prix on 5 March and the season ahead.
"It was a good day for us with a lot of laps completed – just what you need in a new car. We had a busy programme and tried a lot of different things. After a long winter it is good to get strong mileage under your belt early on and there is no better training than driving a Formula One car." After completing 130 laps, Fernando reflects on another productive day in the AMR23 which saw him record his quickest lap towards the end of the evening's running.
"I now feel fitter and sharper ahead of next week, which will be my first race with Aston Martin and I am very excited about that. I have another half day tomorrow so we will use this to continue learning and collecting as much data as possible. I am looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow afternoon." The Spaniard will have one more chance to add to his tally of laps before testing draws to a close, when he takes over from Felipe for the afternoon session on Saturday.
"We are pleased with the progress we have made during our second day of pre-season testing. Fernando completed 130 laps, allowing us to run through our full test plan and gather further valuable data." Team Principal Mike Krack evaluates today's running, which was completed without any major interruptions for the team.
"We are continuing to get to know Fernando's driving style and what he wants from the car, but his feedback has been incredibly constructive and the changes we implemented overnight were received well." With a new driver comes a new driving style to consider. Mike explains how Fernando's vast experience is helping drive the car and team forward.
"It is very difficult to make predictions on competitiveness based on a few days of testing because we have the full range of tyres available, different fuel levels and so many other variables to consider. We are just focussing on ourselves, preparing as much as we can, and getting through the job list." Due to the range of variables, it is always tough to read too much into testing. As Mike explains, the times are not the important thing to take away from this week of running.
"It will be next week after qualifying when we get a much clearer picture of how competitive we are. For our third and final testing day, we are pleased to have Felipe returning to the AMR23 during the morning session, with Fernando taking over in the afternoon." Mike explains the plan of action for Saturday's running, with Felipe getting a second go in the car in place of the injured Lance.
"Overall I am pleased with the first official day of testing here in Bahrain in the AMR23. As a team, we reached 100 laps in total, which is a strong start for the first day despite some minor issues that we resolved. We are still experimenting with lots of different things, so every lap we do is important and we learn something new about the car every time we go out." Fernando reflects on the opening day of testing. After completing more than a race distance in the afternoon session, the Spaniard took the team's tally of laps to a century on Day One at Bahrain International Circuit.
"Driving the AMR23 for the first time today was great; I really enjoyed it. I spent a few laps at the beginning of the day familiarising myself with being back behind the wheel, but I felt like I got up to speed quickly and before long I was back in a good rhythm." Day One of the test marked the first time Felipe was behind the wheel of an F1 car since he drove the AMR22 in the post-season Abu Dhabi test last November.
"A solid opening day of testing on the whole. We had a few issues, which cost us some track time, but when the car was running we were able to get through our test plan. We will have to recover the time we lost over the next two days to ensure we maximise our learnings ahead of the race next week. The car was responding well to the changes we made and we will continue to review the data this evening ahead of Fernando's time in the car tomorrow." Performance Director Tom McCullough looks back on a 'solid' opening day of running for the team.
"These first steps are always intriguing and so far I am enjoying this part of the winter preparation. We will use the information and learning from today to optimise things further tomorrow." Fernando outlines his thoughts on the preparation for the season so far following the opening day and looks to build on it in a full day of driving on Friday.
"Fernando made good progress during the afternoon session and is continuing to familiarise himself with the new car, tyres and people around him. His feedback was incredibly valuable and will be hugely beneficial as we continue to learn more about the AMR23." Tom highlights the importance of this test for Fernando as he seeks to get up to speed with a new team and new car as quickly as possible.
"Despite a small electronics issue, we completed our run plan and gathered some valuable data for the team. I did quite a lot of aerodynamic testing, which is incredibly important with a new car, but I also got to do a few push laps towards the end of the session, which were great fun. Finally, I want to wish Lance a quick recovery and also thank the team for trusting me with this opportunity." After missing out on some early running due to an electronics issue, Felipe returned to the track to record 40 laps behind the wheel of the AMR23 as we sought to map the correlation between the car on track and our wind tunnel and simulation tools.
"Felipe did an excellent job for us this morning with a lot procedural work to gather important aerodynamic data. He did not get quite as many laps in as we had planned due to this morning's electronics issue, but in the time he did have he got up to speed quickly and did a really good job." Tom reflects on the vital role played by Felipe, who was ready to step in at short notice for Lance while he recovers from a minor training accident.
Testing: Need to know
Location: Bahrain International Circuit (3.3 miles)
Date and time: 23-25 February, 07:00-16:30 GMT
Driver line-up: Fernando Alonso and Felipe Drugovich
With a record 355 Grands Prix starts to his name, new recruit Fernando Alonso is not short of experience. However, no two Formula One teams are the same and this test is essential if he is to become fully familiarised with the car, the team, and the processes and procedures that are unique AMF1.
The same applies to Test and Reserve Driver Felipe Drugovich, who will share driving duties with Fernando while Lance Stroll recovers from a cycling accident that occurred while training. The call-up is an invaluable opportunity for the 22-year-old to get seat time in an F1 car.
The Brazilian returns to the cockpit for the first time since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when he took part in the first free practice session and post-season test, just days after completing more than 300km of running in the AMR21 at Silverstone to secure his Super Licence.
Aims and objectives
The overarching aim of any pre-season test is to prepare the car, drivers and team as best as possible for the start of the season. Proving the car is reliable, understanding how the car performs and how it uses tyres, and driver acclimatisation are key objectives of the test – and achieving all three relies on maximising the amount of time spent on track.
A high lap count and a seamless three days of running with little to no reliability issues are all the hallmarks of a productive test. Every minute spent in the garage fixing reliability issues is a minute that could be spent out on track; every lap completed is an opportunity to learn more.
Systems and reliability checks
Aero rakes – used to measure airflow over the car – and other instrumentation fitted to the car for aerodynamic performance and correlation mapping and to learn about other aspects of the car, such as brake and power unit cooling capacity
Day Two and Three:
Validation of aerodynamic performance
General setup work and optimisation
Tyre long runs, and completing sufficient mileage with all tyre compounds to further understanding of compounds ahead of the season
Race and qualifying simulations to predominantly focus on C1, C2 and C3 compounds, which are to be used at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix
The competitive order
It's impossible to have a definitive answer on the competitive order after pre-season testing due to a number of variables, including fuel loads, engine modes and track conditions.
The picture only becomes clear after the first qualifying and race of the season and even then, the competitive landscape can evolve from one circuit to another due to car updates and changes in track layout.
As a general rule in F1, teams don't want to give anything away; everything they say and do is scrutinised by rivals hungry for information about their competitors.
Nevertheless, it is possible to get an indication of whether you are towards the front or back of the grid from pre-season testing, and GPS data for all the cars allows teams to monitor cornering and straight-line speeds throughout the field.
Follow the test
For reaction and insight from the drivers and team, as well as key information from the test, return to this page which will be updated at the end of each day of testing.
Follow @AstonMartinF1 on social for content and real-time updates from the track, and join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts on pre-season testing.
All three days of testing will be broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 in United Kingdom and Ireland and on F1 TV in territories where it is available.
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